The Sopranos/Isabella

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The first shot.
Season 1, Episode 12
Airdate March 28, 1999
Production Number S112
Written by Robin Green,
Mitchell Burgess
Directed by Allen Coulter
Produced by Allen Coulter,
Ilene S. Landress
← 1x11
Nobody Knows Anything
1x13 →
I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano
The SopranosSeason One

Isabella is the twelfth episode of the first season of The Sopranos, and the twelfth episode overall.

Starring: James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano), Lorraine Bracco (Dr. Jennifer Melfi), Edie Falco (Carmela Soprano), Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti), Dominic Chianese (Junior Soprano), Vincent Pastore (credit only), Steven Van Zandt (Silvio Dante), Tony Sirico (Paulie "Walnuts"), Robert Iler (Anthony Soprano, Jr.), Jamie-Lynn Sigler (Meadow Soprano)

And: Nancy Marchand (Livia Soprano)

Guest Starring: Maria Grazia Cucinotta (Isabella)

Also Guest Starring: Al Sapienza (Mikey Palmice), Paul Schulze (Father Phil), Matt Servitto (Agent Harris), Joe Badalucco (Jimmy Altieri), John Eddins (John Clayborn), Touche (Rasheen Ray)

Co-Starring: Kareen Germain (Nurse), Johnathan Mondel (Boy), Jack O'Connell (Vendor), Katalin Pota (Lilliana), Denise Richardson (Newscaster), Sal Ruffino (Chucky Signore), Bittu Walia (Doctor), David Wike (Donnie Paduana)


Plot Overview

With Big Pussy missing and his meds being changed, Tony is in a deep state of depression, unable to focus on business or even get out of bed. The only thing that seems to be able to get him to feel like himself is Isabella, a beautiful Italian exchange student watching the Cusamanos' house while they are on vacation. While getting a prescription filled for an increased dosage of Prozac, he runs into her outside the drug store and takes her out to lunch. As she tells him of Italy and her dental studies, he fantasizes about her, but not sexually. Rather, he sees her as a young mother rocking a baby named "Antonio." Despite the innocence of his obsession, Carmela catches him watching Isabella and argues with him, threatening to "cut [his] dick off."

The cure for Tony's depression, however, is already brewing. With Livia's blessing, Junior has ordered outside help, two black gunmen named John Clayborn and Rasheen Ray, for a hit on Tony. The hit is scheduled to happen outside the medical center where Tony keeps his appointments with Dr. Melfi, but on their first attempt, Christopher unwittingly blocks the hit while tailing Tony to make sure he is okay. In retaliation, Mikey kills Donnie Paduana, an associate of his who set up the assassination.

Nonetheless, at Tony's next appointment, John and Rasheen get a second chance. John fires first, but he fails to even wing Tony, who jumps into his SUV and wrestles John for the gun. Rasheen takes a shot, too, but he accidentally kills John and merely clips Tony's ear. Tony takes off in his SUV, dragging Rasheen along for several feet, but as he looks back in celebration, he crashes his SUV into a parked car and winds up in the hospital with a hurt leg.

In the hospital, Tony tells Carmela, Meadow and A.J. the attempted assassination was merely a carjacking gone wrong, but they don't believe him. Nor does Agent Dwight Harris, who offers Tony and Carmela the FBI's protection if he testifies against Junior, but Tony angrily refuses. Meanwhile, Junior and Livia are running scared. To cover their tracks, they visit Tony when he returns home, but Christopher, Paulie, Silvio and Tony already suspect the truth about Junior, and Livia shows signs of senility when she claims not to recognize Meadow. Later, Junior confronts Livia about her "senility," believing it to be a ploy to absolve herself of her role in the assassination attempt, but she claims to know nothing.

Tony, meanwhile, meets Melfi in secret and confesses that since his brush with death, he is feeling better than ever. They also discuss his daydream about Isabella, and Melfi says he is imagining her as a replacement for his real mother. Even stranger, the next day, Cusamano claims not to know anything about Isabella, and Carmela, too, says she never argued with Tony. He calls Melfi and says Isabella was entirely a hallucination, and she asks him to come in, but he says his top priority is finding out who wanted him dead.



  • Ugly Stadium, performed by Tipsy: Bada-Bing dance music as Christopher and Silvio discuss Tony's depression.
  • Tiny Tears, performed by Tindersticks²: Tony sees Isabella for the first time through the window, then takes his pills and sits in the shower. Also later, when Tony gets out of bed for an appointment with Dr. Melfi, just before the assassination attempt.
  • Cry, performed by Thornetta Davis: Christopher tails Tony to his doctor appointment and inadvertently prevents John Clayborn and Rasheen Ray from killing Tony.
  • Temptation Waits, performed by Garbage: Mikey drives past Donnie Paduana's car after killing him.
  • Ballad of Tindersticks (Ballad-N.Y.), performed by Tindersticks: Tony runs into Isabella on his way out of the drug store.
  • Milonga del Angel, performed by Al DiMeola: Tony and Isabella have lunch.
  • I Feel Free, performed by Cream¹: Closing credits.

¹Included on The Sopranos: Music from the HBO Original Series soundtrack collection.

²Included on The Sopranos: Peppers & Eggs soundtrack collection.

Whack List

  • Mariolina Capuano
    • Killed by: God
    • Method of death: Unknown; presumably natural causes
    • Ordered by: God
    • Notes: Mariolina Capuano is the woman in the casket in the opening shot of the episode, whose wake is attended by Jimmy Altieri, Junior, Mikey Palmice and Chucky Signore. Nothing is known of her except her name, her birthdate (February 1, 1925), her death date (March 24, 1999), that she was apparently a grandmother and that she gave Junior his first hand job years earlier.
  • Donnie Paduana
    • Killed by: Mikey Palmice
    • Method of death: Shot in the head in his car
    • Ordered by: Corrado Soprano, Jr.
    • Notes: Donnie Paduana has been hired to find outside help for the hit on Tony, but the assassins' first attempt has failed. He meets Mikey and Chucky Signore and assures them the hit will go through the next day, and at first, Mikey agrees to give him another chance. However, Junior, who is secretly at the meeting, is offended when Donnie makes an inappropriate joke about Tony's mother. He expresses his concerns to Mikey, who walks up to Donnie's car just as Donnie is about to drive away, says simply, "Sorry," and shoots him.
  • John Clayborn
    • Killed by: Rasheen Ray
    • Method of death: Accidentally shot in the head
    • Ordered by: God
    • Notes: One of two would-be assassins charged with killing Tony, John gets the first two shots, but he succeeds only in destroying Tony's orange juice and shattering the window of his SUV. Tony climbs into the driver's seat of the SUV and wrestles with John as Rasheen comes by for a second shot. Rasheen fires from outside Tony's passenger-side window, but his bullet merely clips Tony's ear, although it kills John.

Total Episode Body Count: 3

Title Significance

Isabella is the Italian exchange student Tony hallucinates.

Dream Diary

Arc Advancement


  • War of '99: With the help of Livia and Mikey Palmice, Junior orders a hit on Tony, which takes place, but it goes awry, and Tony walks away. Tony suspects the truth, however, although Junior responds by playing it cool.


  • Tony: At lunch, "Isabella" urges Tony to go to Italy, as he says he has never been. As Isabella is a figment of his imagination, this is clearly a longing of Tony's.
  • Tony and Dr. Melfi: Dr. Melfi is the first to suggest to Tony that his own mother may be behind the attempt on his life.
  • Tony and Carmela: Carmela strongly urges Tony to leave "the life" and turn state's witness for Agent Harris, but Tony refuses.
  • Livia: Livia shows her first signs of senility, but Junior suspects they are a ploy to avoid Tony's wrath if he finds out she was behind the hit attempt.


  • 1x01 - The Sopranos: Tony tells Isabella about his grandfather, who was a stonemason who came to America.
  • 1x04 - Meadowlands: Silvio theorizes Junior ordered the hit on Tony because he found out he is the boss of the family in name only.
  • 1x05 - College: When Father Phil comes to see the injured Tony, Tony taunts him by saying, "You're sleeping over, right?"
  • 1x08 - The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti: Christopher tells Silvio he and Tony talked about depression. Also, several references are made to the indictments being handed down, and Dr. Melfi tells Tony her family knows she has a mobster patient, but they do not know his name.
  • 1x09 - Boca: Part of Junior's motivation for the hit on Tony is the fact that his capos have checked their mothers into Green Grove. Also, Junior and Mikey discuss their knowledge that Tony is seeing a psychiatrist.
  • 1x11 - Nobody Knows Anything: Big Pussy is still missing. Also, Christopher and Tony discuss the knowledge that Jimmy is a rat, and the hit Junior has ordered on Tony is attempted to be carried out. Livia knows of the hit and signs off on it because of her anger at Tony for selling her house.


The Show

  • MIA: Although credited, actor Vincent Pastore does not appear in this episode.
  • Soprano Family History: At lunch with Isabella, Tony reveals his family came from the town of Avellino in Italy, in the Campania region near Naples.

Behind the Scenes

  • Awards and Nominations: Writers Robin Green and Mitchell Burgess were nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for their work on this episode.

Allusions and References

  • The Godfather: Just before his attempted assassination, Tony buys a bottle of orange juice, which is destroyed by John Clayborn's first shot. This is an homage to The Godfather trilogy, in which oranges are a recurring motif of mortality, and when oranges (or orange juice) are present in a scene, they typically accompany the death of or near-death of a member of the Corleone family. Most significantly, in the first film in the series, Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) is buying oranges from a fruitstand similar to the newsstand where Tony buys his orange juice when Solozzo's men shoot and nearly kill him. In that scene, Vito's driver, his son Fredo (John Cazale), is ineffectual in doing anything to stop the hit on Vito. Tony's driver and "son," Christopher, does effectively prevent an attempt on Tony's life, but he succeeds only in delaying it.

Memorable Moments

  • Tony comes down to dinner with his family and Livia in his bathrobe, but after a few minutes of listening to Livia, he goes back to bed.
  • The attempt on Tony's life.
  • A.J. goes to a formal dance with a date, but their evening is awkward, as they sit in the back of a stretch limo with A.J.'s chaperones Paulie and Silvio, who merely stare silently.


  • Tony: Principles of Oral Surgery?
    Isabella: I'm a student. I'm here as part of an exchange program between our two countries.
    Tony: Boy, if my dentist looked like you, I'd stay awake during a root canal.
  • Donnie Paduana: They'll do it fucking tomorrow, my personal guarantee.
    Mikey: Let me tell you something, Donnie, if they don't, some hikers are gonna find your personal guarantee rolled up in a tube and shoved up your ass, you understand?
  • Dr. Melfi: Do you think it would help if you went someplace so you could rest up a while?
    Tony: You mean like Vegas?
  • Carmela: You know what I want, Tony? I want those kids to have a father.
    Tony: They got one. This one. Me. Tony Soprano. And all that comes with it.
  • Tony: Talk about a jolt to the system, try gettin' shot at. It'll give you a nice kick-start.
  • Tony: I feel pretty good, actually. When I find out who took a shot at me, I'm gonna feel even better.